Citing Local Teacher Shortage, Paterson Will Get $7,500 Signing Bonuses to New Hires

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Due to a teaching shortage of 135 teachers n New Jersey’s fourth largest school district—ten more than there were on September 1st- Wednesday evening the Paterson Board of Education approved an incentive payment of $7,500 for each new teacher. Assistant Superintendent Luis M. Rojas told the Board, “We all understand that one vacancy is too much. We were at 125 on Sept. 1. It has creeped up to 135 as of today.”

One hundred fifty-three teachers were hired during job fairs between May and August but they won’t get the extra check.

The story was first reported by nj.com.

it’s unclear how Paterson Education Association, the local teachers union, will respond: typically union representatives prefer a seat at the table on issues of this magnitude, especially when they invert the standard practice of back-loading teacher salaries so that long-timers reap rewards, not newbies, or at least offering bonuses to all staff.  And the Board’s approval may feel especially irksome to veterans who just this week issued a letter protesting low salaries and poor working conditions. In another protest letter, union leaders said the district had seen a “mass exodus” of 1,300 teachers in three years do to the Administration’s lack of respect for its educators.

In  August Paterson Education Association President John McEntee Jr. said Paterson is losing educators due to low salaries, comparing the district to  Newark which recently raised its starting teacher salary to $62,000. Paterson’s current salary guide starts off at $57,500.

But kudos to the Board for smartly approving the bonus, although its not pensionable and, presumably, next year these new teachers will net less than they did their first year. Matthew Yglesias, in a a recent Substack piece, muses,

[T]he union-backed idea that teachers are underpaid so we should do an across-the-board pay increase seems like the least cost-effective way you could possibly do this. It actually seems like a pretty serious problem that teacher compensation is so heavily backloaded. Because your salary rises with time spent on the job, because you can get bonus pay for obtaining a mid-career master’s degree, and because teachers generally get defined-benefit pensions if they stay on the job for a long time, new teachers often earn dramatically less than the average teacher.

Adding: Today McEntee released this statement:

To All P.E.A. Members:

The Paterson Education Association (PEA) is glad that the District recognizes the need to recruit teachers to reduce the number of outstanding vacancies.  Filling these positions allows us to address the needs of Paterson’s students as we work to close the learning gap and return to a post-pandemic sense of stability.  However, we are extremely disappointed that there still seems to be no retention plan in place to keep good educators in Paterson for the long term.  It’s important to get folks here, but it’s equally as vital to finding ways to make them—and those who’ve dedicated their educational careers to our public schools— stay.

Moreover, we regret that the Superintendent and Board chose not to involve the PEA in their recruitment plan, as required by law, and we are exploring ways to address that.  As I have said before, while we did not create the problem, we are more than willing to be part of the solution and continue to extend an offer to partner with the Board.  Though it may be a bitter pill for the Superintendent to swallow, we must all work together to address this growing crisis. The Paterson community deserves nothing less.

John McEntee, Jr., President

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